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Shared Self-Driving Cars Would Transform Cities, Report Says

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Chart from International Transfort Forum report

Chart from International Transfort Forum report

A new report by an organization of 54 member countries says that improvements in road safety are “almost certain” once shared self-driving vehicles replace all other car and bus trips in cities. The report, “Urban Mobility System Upgrade: How shared self-driving cars could change city traffic,” was produced by the International Transport Forum (ITF), whose member countries include the United States.

The study considered two different self-driving vehicle concepts, a ride-sharing one dubbed “TaxiBots,” self-driving cars that can be shared by several passengers; and a car-sharing system called “AutoVots,” which pick up and drop off one passenger at a time, sequentially. The report says: “The deployment of large-scale self-driving vehicle fleets will likely reduce both the number of crashes and crash severity, despite increases in overall levels of car travel.”

Once small and mid-size cities are using a significant number of shared, self-driving vehicles, those vehicles could eliminate the need for traditional public transportation, the report says. And even before shared self-driving vehicles comprise all of the car and bus trips in a city, the report says, “Mixing fleets of shared self-driving vehicles and privately-owned cars will not deliver the same benefits as a full TaxiBot/AutoVot fleet — but it still remains attractive.”

The researchers found that TaxiBots combined with high-capacity public transportation could eliminate 9 out of every 10 cars in a mid-size city. And if AutoVots (as opposed to TaxiBots) were the dominant mode of transportation, nearly 8 out of 10 cars in mid-sized cities would be eliminated, the report says.

Such a large reduction in the need for cars owned by individuals would free up a significant amount of city space traditionally used for parking according to the report, writes Gregory Ferenstein in an article appearing on ReadWrite:

In Lisbon alone, that would free up an extra 210 soccer fields of available space—20% of the city’s curb-to-curb street area—that could be dedicated to ‘non-motorised transport modes, delivery bays, parklets or other recreational and commercial uses,’ the report suggests.

In another benefit, the time a person would have to wait to be picked up by a shared self-driving car system would be considerably less than the time they have to wait for traditional buses, the report says:

We assessed the average waiting and travel time resulting from shared mobility services via TaxiBots and AutoVots, and compared these with the baseline scenario for public transport and private car use. We found that this resulted in a significant reduction in average waiting and travel times…. These reductions are the result of the more personalised door-to-door services offered by TaxiBots and AutoVots, notably for those trips previously taken by bus, and improved travel times, especially in peak periods.

The eventual shift to shared self-driving vehicles in cities will significantly affect auto makers, the report says. “The role of authorities, both regulatory and fiscal, will be important in guiding developments or potentially maintaining market barriers,” according to the report.

The report’s principal author, Luis Martinez, of the ITF, completed some of the modeling and analytical work when he was at the University of Lisbon. Michelin and Nissan were the corporate sponsors of the report.


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